Online Rome district budget presentation draws small audience

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An additional public presentation on the Rome school district's proposed 2020-21 budget on a remote basis Monday night drew just one question from the public.

The question, through an online "chat" function, noted that district Superintendent Peter C. Blake's budget presentation had been slightly modified from previously, and asked if it would be posted for the public.

Blake explained the presentation this time was less about the budget development process and more about the proposed budget adopted May 20 by the Board of Education. It will be subject to final approval by district voters in a June 9 election before taking effect July 1. Blake's presentation is available on the district's YouTube channel.

The presentation, held remotely using a Zoom platform due to COVID-19 restrictions, was tuned in by seven participants besides board members and administration, said board President Stephen P. Hampe. People had an opportunity to submIt questions beforehand using a board email address, but none did so. The presentation did not include a "live" question-and-answer session this time for the public, after such sessions were offered at presentations on May 14 and 20, because a proposed budget has since then been adopted by the board.

Blake's presentation summarized the proposed $122.6 million budget, which calls for no local tax levy increase and would maintain programs including no staff layoffs. It would allocate about $11.9 million from the district's fund balance/savings and reserves to cover a projected deficit.

The budget seeks to "support the community" in this time of need by including no tax levy increase, and also aims to limit stress on district staff, Blake said regarding the COVID-19 situation and uncertainties ahead.

Projected property tax rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the district's five municipalities to help support the budget are projected to be up slightly in Rome and Verona and down in Lee, Annsville and Western; each municipality assesses property at different percentages of full value, using equalization rates set by the state, and equalization rates can shift depending on changes in market values in a municipality.

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